Looking for positives in a loss seems like it might not be particularly in vogue right now, but when Luis Silva started in a loss against Portland Timbers, it became something I just had to do.
You see, Silva was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. He hasn't been at the club long, but he showed in his 89-minute appearance that he's a shockingly good fit for this team. Silva was involved from the get-go, in some ways mirroring the play of Javier Morales.
Silva started on the right side of the forward line, ostensibly, but despite lining up that way, his play floated all across the forward line. Take a look at the above graphic — what you see is a passing chart that looks like a slightly less creative Morales.
In case you needed a reminder, this was Silva's first start with Morales, and they combined to excellent effect. While we don't have specific numbers on passes between the two of them (paging Opta: Could you, you know, gift me that data in an easy-to-work-with format? Thanks!), you could see it throughout.
For effect, here's Morales's passing chart.
He's obviously a little more involved than Silva, but you can see that he's actually completing more passes centrally than Morales, too. It's probably a tactical thing, and it worked out reasonably well.
Sometimes, with a 4-3-3, it can sometimes to lead to forced width, with both wide players sticking wide and zipping in crosses. That's not a style that suits RSL, and when we've been that static, it doesn't really work. RSL's 4-3-3 has worked best when one of the wide players takes a more traditional forward role, cutting from wide, and the other focuses his efforts more creatively, tucking into central positions and extending the team's influence.
It'll be interesting to see how the 4-3-3 morphs to support Burrito Martinez, and if he and Joao Plata can form a good connection with Sebastian Jaime. They're two reasonably sound question marks that will need to be answered. Whether that's next week, in a month, or next season is difficult to say.
Now, despite the combined creativity of Morales and Silva, Real Salt Lake struggled to finish their shots, and there were some very good opportunities that the team could have finished. But if we're looking at the game with a clear, level head, there's at least something to be happy about moving forward.